Amid widening gaps in politics and demographics, Americans in urban, suburban and rural areas share many aspects of community life
It’s been more than a year since Donald Trump was elected president, and the “rural-urban divide” is frequently cited as one of the big reasons for his win.
But discussions often simplify the realities of America’s rural areas, cities, and suburbs, reducing these communities to monoliths with few overlapping experiences or attitudes. The findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center complicate that narrative—showing that while rural, urban, and suburban communities have unique problems, they have surprising, perhaps often overlooked, similarities.
"Yes, there are deep divides,” said Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research at Pew. “But when it comes to the basic issues of life, there's a lot that Americans across communities agree on.”1
Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. The country is growing in numbers, it’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the population is aging. But according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center, these trends are playing out differently across community types.
Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.
At the same time, urban and rural communities are becoming increasingly different from each other . Adults in urban counties, long aligned with the Democratic Party, have moved even more to the left in recent years, and today twice as many urban voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic as affiliate with the Republican Party. For their part, rural adults have moved more firmly into the Republican camp. More than half (54%) of rural voters now identify with or lean to the GOP, while 38% are Democrats or lean Democratic.
Against this backdrop, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that many urban and rural residents feel misunderstood and looked down on by Americans living in other types of communities. About two-thirds or more in urban and rural areas say people in other types of communities don’t understand the problems people face in their communities. And majorities of urban and rural residents say people who don’t live in their type of community have a negative view of those who do. In contrast, most suburbanites say people who don’t live in the suburbs have a positive view of those who do.